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Chinese 2019-20 soybean imports to total 88 million mt, up 6% on year: USDA

Highlights

Crushing to rise 1% on year to 86 mil mt

Year-ending stocks to jump 11% on year

New Delhi — China is forecast to import 88 million mt of soybean in the 2019-20 marketing year (September –August), up 6% year on year due to higher crush expectations, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

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China's crush total in 2019-20 is expected to be 86 million mt, up 1% year on year, while its year-ending stocks are set to jump 11% year on year to 21.7 million mt, the USDA said in its latest World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report..

Due to Beijing's commitment to purchase US-origin agricultural products, including soybeans, under Phase 1 of the countries' trade deal, China's soy imports are expected to rise in 2020 and 2021, a market source said.

China – world's largest soybean importer and a major trading partner of the US – has committed to purchasing $36.3 billion worth of US agricultural products, including soybeans, in 2020 and $43.3 billion in 2021, under the trade deal signed January 15, according to a joint statement released by the two nations' governments.

ASF

China's domestic crushing sector is continuing to recover from African swine fever, which has bolstered the country's soy demand capacity.

China – the world's largest pork producer and consumer – lost over 40% of its pig population due to the ASF outbreak since August 2018. Simultaneously, the country's demand for soybean-based animal feed dropped drastically. The country processes over 80% of its imported beans into high protein animal feed.

The outbreak of the highly infectious and incurable ASF hit local pig breeders and soybean crushers hard. However, Chinese pig numbers are expected to recover in 2020 as large pig farming companies have started to consolidate, while most small and medium-sized pig farms have been wiped out after millions of pigs were culled, according to the USDA's 2019 Global Agricultural Information Network report.

S&P Global Platts Analytics has a more optimistic outlook on China's 2019-20 soybean imports and forecast shipments would reach 90 million mt, up 9% year on year, due to a recovery in pig and sow herds in recent months.

China's hog production capacity has continued to recover, with breeding sow herds restocked for three consecutive months since September, according to Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. In December, sow herds in China grew 2.2% month on month, it said.

China's pig feed production has risen for four months straight since September, sources said. In December, pig feed output increased 2% month on month.

China's soybean crushing industry is optimistic for 2020 due to the consolidation of the local pork industry, which enables better pig inventory management and biosecurity measures.

After sow herds begin to recover, it usually takes six months for soybean demand to pick up.

CORONAVIRUS THREAT

The coronavirus outbreak in China since January – which has killed over 1,100 people – could negatively impact the country's soybean demand in the coming months, sources say.

According to the sources, there are growing expectations of soybean demand loss due to the outbreak as the whole supply chain in the country has been severely impacted due to the contagion risk.

Top US trade officials have acknowledged the possible threat the coronavirus outbreak poses to the Phase 1 deal, sources said. However, they maintain that the final decision regarding the flexibility on agricultural purchase terms under the trade deal lies with President Donald Trump.